This information sheet is about the leaves of absence that the Labour Standards Code says employers must allow employees to take. The leaves of absence are pregnancy and parental, reservists, compassionate care, critically ill child care, crime-related death or disappearance, emergency, sick, bereavement, court, and citizenship ceremony.
These are all unpaid leaves. During a leave of absence, an employee leaves the job intending to return. The intent is to provide job protection so employees can take time off from their job for the leave. Employees can qualify for multiple leaves under the Labour Standards Code.
With certain leaves (pregnancy and parental, reservists’, compassionate care, critically ill child care, crime-related child death or disappearance, and emergency), the employer must:
Pregnancy leave is an unpaid leave for pregnant employees. It can last up to 17 weeks. The employee can start the leave up to 16 weeks before the expected date of delivery. She must also take at least one week after the date of delivery. Employees who have worked for an employer for at least one year may qualify for this leave. An employer can require that an employee take an unpaid leave of absence if her pregnancy interferes with her work. There are times when the Human Rights Act or the employee’s contract prevents this.
The Labour Standards Code also allows parents to take parental leave to care for their newborn or newly adopted children. This unpaid leave is up to 52 weeks and is available to every parent that qualifies for it. To qualify for the leave an employee must have worked for the employer for at least one year and must become a parent to the child through birth or adoption.
To take pregnancy or parental leave, an employee must give the employer at least four weeks’ notice of both the date on which leave will start and, if the employee plans to return early, the planned date of return to work. If the employee cannot give four weeks’ notice of leave because the baby is born early, because of a medical condition, or because of an unexpected adoption placement, then the employee must give as much notice as possible.
An employer can ask for proof of entitlement for pregnancy or parental leave. This can include a certificate from a doctor or adoption worker.
If an employee is taking both pregnancy and parental leaves, she must take them one right after the other and not go back to work between the two leaves. In this case, she can take up to 52 weeks’ total leave (17 pregnancy and 35 parental). If an employee is taking parental leave but not pregnancy leave, the employee can take up to 52 weeks’ leave in the time after the child is born or arrives in the home. The employee loses this right if the leave is not taken within 52 weeks after the child arrives in the home.
If a newly arrived child must go into hospital for more than one week, the employee can return to work and use the rest of the parental leave after the child comes out of hospital.
Employees who take pregnancy and/or parental leave may qualify for up to 15 weeks of maternity benefits and/or up to 35 weeks of parental leave benefits under the federal government’s Employment Insurance program. For more detail on these special benefits, please contact Service Canada.
When an employee returns from pregnancy and/or parental leave, the employee must be accepted back into the same position or a comparable one with no loss of seniority or benefits. There are some situations where an employer may not be required to accept the employee back to work. See section 30(2) of the Labour Standards Code.
If an employer did not allow an employee to return from pregnancy/parental leave, the employee could, possibly, make a complaint to the Human Rights Commission as well as to the Labour Standards Division.
No, employees do not earn vacation leave while they are on pregnancy or parental leave.
The employee may want to contact the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission to ask about her rights under the Human Rights Act.
The Labour Standards Code has two types of leaves for Canadian Forces Reservists – a training leave available to all reservists and a deployment leave for reservists who accept a deployment for active service.
To qualify for the leave, reservists must have been employed with their employer for one year.
Reservists can take up to 20 days unpaid training leave per year in order to take ongoing annual reservist training. This means that the reservist does not have to use vacation leave for this training.
The 20 days may be broken up into shorter periods and includes necessary travel time. An employee on training leave must return to work no later than the next regularly scheduled working day following the training and any related travel time.
The employee must give at least 4 weeks’ notice to the employer that they plan to take a training leave, except in an emergency situation, when they must give as much notice as reasonably possible.
Reservists who are on, or who are preparing for an active deployment, within Canada or overseas can take an unpaid leave from civilian work to fulfill their military commitment to service.
Reservist employees can take deployment leave for a maximum period of service of 18 months within a 3 year period and must return to work within 4 weeks of the end of the service period. The period of the leave includes the time for training that is necessary for the deployment. There must be at least one year between each deployment leave.
An employee must give the employer 90 days’ notice of his/her intention to take the leave and 90 days’ notice of his/her intention to return to work from the leave. In an emergency situation, where the full 90 days cannot be provided, an employee needs to give as much notice as is reasonably practical.
An employer can require an employee to provide a certificate from an official with the Reserves confirming that the employee requires the leave for a period of training or active service.
No. Employees do not earn vacation time while they are on deployment leave.
Compassionate care leave is an unpaid, 28 week leave for employees who need to care for a seriously ill family member who has a high risk of dying within 26 weeks.
To take compassionate care leave, employees must be employed for at least three months with the same employer. Also, they must give their employer as much notice as possible before taking the leave. An employer can ask an employee to provide a medical certificate, from a medical doctor, stating that the employee’s family member is seriously ill. The employee can take up to 28 weeks' leave, which must be taken over a 52 week time frame. The leave can be broken up into several periods of at least one week in duration during the 52 week time frame. The 52 week time frame begins on the first day of the week in which the leave began.
Employees who take a compassionate care leave may qualify for 26 week compassionate care leave benefit under the federal government’s Employment Insurance program. For more detail on this special benefit, please contact Service Canada.
It is up to a legally qualified medical practitioner to determine whether the family member has a serious medical condition with a significant risk of dying within 26 weeks. The employee may be required to provide a certificate from the medical practitioner.
Critically ill child care leave is an unpaid leave that allows parents and guardians to take time off work to provide care and support to their critically ill or injured child (under the age of 18 years old). To qualify for this leave, the employee must have worked with the employer for at least three months. A qualified medical practitioner must issue a medical certificate stating that the child has a critical illness and the period of time for which the child needs care.
The employee can take up to 37 weeks’ leave, which must be taken over a 52 week time frame. The leave can be broken up into several periods of at least one week in duration during the 52 week time frame. The 52 week time frame begins on the first day of the week in which the child became critically ill.
The leave ends when the number of weeks in the period specified in a medical certificate has been taken (if the certificate sets out a period of less than 37 weeks), when 37 weeks of leave has been taken or when the employee ceases to provide care to the child. An employee can return to work earlier than intended by giving at least 14 days’ notice.
Under some circumstances, an employee can extend their leave or take a new leave during the 52 week time frame. The employee may also be able to take consecutive critically ill child care leaves.
Employees who take a critically ill child care leave may qualify for a 35 week special benefit under the federal government's Employment Insurance program. For more detail on this special benefit, please Contact Service Canada.
The employee must let the employer know in writing as soon as possible of their intention to take the leave. Where the leave must begin before written notice can be given, the employee must advise the employer of the leave as soon as possible. The employee must also give the employer a plan setting out how the leave will be taken, since the leave can be broken up into more than one period over the 52 week time frame. This leave plan can be changed during the leave with the employer’s agreement or by providing the employer with reasonable notice.
The employer can ask in writing for a copy of the medical certificate.
Crime-related death or disappearance leave is an unpaid leave for parents and guardians who are facing the death or disappearance of their child (under 18 years of age) resulting from a probable crime. To qualify for the leave, the employee must have worked with the same employer for at least 3 months. The employee is not entitled to the leave if charged with the crime.
An employee can to take up to 52 consecutive weeks of unpaid leave if their child has disappeared and up to 104 consecutive weeks if their child has died.
Where a missing child is found alive during the 52 week leave period, the employee can continue the leave for another 14 days. If the child is found dead, the disappearance leave ends immediately and the employee can start 104 weeks of leave related to the death of the child.
Where the death or disappearance no longer seems to be the result of a crime, the employee can continue the leave for another 14 days and the employee must give the employer notice in writing of their return to work as soon as possible.
The employee can end the leave early by giving the employer 14 days’ written notice.
Employees who take a crime-related death or disappearance leave may qualify for 35 weeks of income support through a federal government grant. For more information on this grant please contact Service Canada.
The employee must let the employer know in writing as soon as possible of their intention to take the leave. Where the leave must begin before written notice can be given, the employee must advise the employer of the leave as soon as possible.
The employee must also give the employer a written plan outlining the period that they will take the leave, which can be changed during the leave period with the employer’s agreement or by giving the employer 4 weeks’ written notice.
The employer can ask for reasonable evidence of the death or disappearance of the child and evidence showing it was likely due to a crime.
Employees are entitled to an unpaid leave if they are unable to work because:
a government agency has declared an emergency, or
a medical officer of health has issued a directive or order telling an employee to stay off work, or
Employees are entitled to receive up to three days, unpaid sick leave each year. This leave may be used to care for an ill parent, child, or family member. It can also be used for medical, dental, or other similar appointments.
Employees can take unpaid leave of up to five working days in a row if their spouse, parent, guardian, child / child under their care, grandparent, grandchild, sister, brother, mother-in-law, father-in-law, daughter-in-law, son-in-law, sister-in-law, or brother-in-law dies.
Employees must give their employers as much notice as possible that they will take this leave.
Employees can take unpaid leave if they must serve on a jury or the court says that they must appear as a witness. They must give their employer as much notice as possible that they will take court leave.
Employees are entitled to take an unpaid leave of absence of up to one day, or less if the employee chooses, to attend their citizenship ceremony.
If possible, employees must give their employer 14 days' notice that they plan to take the leave. If this is not possible, they must give as much notice as is reasonably possible.
If the employer asks, the employee must provide evidence that they are attending their citizenship ceremony on a particular day, for example the “Notice to Appear” sent by Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
It is against the law to fire, lay off, or discriminate in any way against an employee who has taken or has said that they intends to take—or if the employer believes the employee may take—a leave of absence that the Labour Standards Code says the employee should be able to take. If a complaint is filed Labour Standards will investigate to determine if:
the employer has good reason to fire or suspend the employee for past behavior and can show that the behaviour has not been allowed in the past
there is lack of work that the employer could not foresee and avoid
If Labour Standards finds an employee has been discriminated against for having taken a leave or for intending to take a leave, the employer may be ordered to bring the employee back to the job with full back pay dating to the date the employee was fired. If the employee does not wish to go back to the job, Labour Standards may order a reasonable alternative remedy.
The Code does not require an employer to give an employee educational leave. Nor does it require an employer to pay for an employee's education unless there is an agreement between the employer and the employee to do so.
If you have any questions, please contact Labour Standards.